I just read a Daily News article reprinted on Queens Crap and I feel like my eyes are about to cross. It's about the Jamaica Savings Bank, a 110-year-old Beaux Arts beauty, and how the Landmarks Preservation Committee's drive to landmark it is being roadblocked by the building fussy owner, Morris Cohen.
I've read and reread it and I don't get it. Gloria Black, the chairwoman of Queens Community Board 12, City Councilman Leroy Comrie, commission spokeswoman Lisi de Bourbon—they all talk as if Cohen is some Queens County potentate to be wooed and coddled. Excuse my French, but who the fuck is Morris Cohen, besides the owner of a crappy Conway department store next door? (Thanks for the ugly pink shopping bags, Morris!) Is he a mobster? Is he the mayor's brother-in-law? The Commission doesn't need his approval. Nobody does. If the building's landmark-worthy, it's landmark-worthy and that's that. The whole of Sunnyside Gardens was recently landmarked; was there any talk of getting approval from the many houseowners in the area?
Look at the Landmarks Commission website. Lots of stuff there are meeting the owner and informing the owner, etc., but nothing about getting his say-so. "The Commission then votes on the designation at a public meeting. Six votes are needed to approve or deny a designation. By law, landmark designation is effective upon the Commission's vote, and all rules and regulations of the Landmarks Law are applicable."
Comrie in particular seems like a prize asshole. (E-mail him!) The news quoted him as saying that that he wouldn't support landmarking if Cohen "can show it's economically unfeasible for him to maintain the building [as a landmark], we have to make sure we don't leave that eyesore for another millennium."
Huh? What building is he looking at? I'm looking at the one up above, which is fantastic. As for the economics, Cohen owns the Conway store, remember. But that's beside the point. He doesn't get to say the Bank can't be a landmark because he doesn't want to spend money on it.
This bank seems to make weird (read: crooked) things happen, politically. There have been two previous attempts to landmark it, in 1974 and 1992, both shot down, likely because the then-owner, Rita Stark, opposed the motion. You can read more about slumlord and political string-puller Stark here and here and here and here.
Cohen is far less notorious. Perhaps he's just trying to follow Stark's bad example